Funding for library, schools top budget hearing
CENTREVILLE — It was more of the same during the second public hearing regarding the Fiscal Year 2018 budget as the majority of speakers spoke favorably about the Kent Island library and its potential expansion. The meeting, known as the Constant Yield Rate hearing, was held in the Liberty Building in Centreville during the County Commissioners’ regularly scheduled meeting.
The proposed operating and capital budgets are $133 million and $37 million, respectively. The operating budget increased by about $4 million, mainly due to increased funds from property and income taxes, Finance Director Jonathan Seeman said during a presentation.
Of the 15 speakers, 12 urged the commission to put $325,000 in its capital budget to match a state grant the library system received for architectural and engineering design to be completed for a library expansion. The community spoke about how the library has been too small almost since it was built and that areas such as the children’s room, the meeting room and quiet area have outgrown the demand.
Multiple speakers referenced how the population on Kent Island had greatly increased over the years but the building has had little work completed since it was built in 1989.
John Walden, executive director of the library system, began by thanking the commission for its consistent financial support over the years as the library operating budget had expanded, as well as funds provided to keep the libraries open on Sundays.
Walden, who was “pleasantly surprised” with the number of speakers who came out to support the library at the first budget hearing at Bayside Elementary School on Monday, said though the $325,000 match would pay for design work only, state grants are potentially available for future construction funds the county could apply for.
With a construction timeline of about 16 months, Walden said Queen Anne’s County is in a strong position to apply for additional construction funding. He mentioned how libraries in Annapolis and Baltimore each received $1 million recently for construction enhancements.
“I am confident that together we can find a funding strategy that keeps our project moving forward on the timeline ... established with our grant application,” Walden said.
Multiple speakers shared what libraries in general meant to them and how having a thriving library enhances a community, as well as shared stories of overcrowded rooms due to the location’s many programs and ser vices.
Mary Jackson said she had never seen a library do so much with so little.
Required by law to hold a constant yield rate hearing, Seeman told the audience the county has proposed not using it and keeping the $670,000 revenue. The constant yield rate is the amount of the property tax rate should change to collect the same amount of revenue as the previous year.
The county has proposed keeping the current tax rate of $0.8471 per $100 of assessed value rather than using the constant yield rate of $0.8388 per $100 of assessed value.
Helen Bennett, the only person to speak about the constant yield rate, asked the commissioners to use the lower tax rate. “You have a chance this year to give the residents a break. Just keep the constant yield and let them have a little break on their taxes,” she said.
Gregory Pilewski, interim superintendent of public schools, began by thanking the commission for its “continuous generosity” and its win-win partnership with the school system.
Speaking on behalf of more than 1,250 full, parttime and support employees and the 7,462 students, Pilewski remarked about how the teachers had implemented federal, state and local reform initiatives such as new standards, assessments, instructional strategies and technology.
“Our teachers never balked at the task and it is remarkable the passion they bring each day to meet and reach the needs of every student,” he said.
Pilewski told the commission employee compensation is a top priority but the funding level proposed would not be enough to fully pay for health care increases, funding of bus contractors as well as the ability to provide Cost of Living Adjustments and pay increases for its staff.
He said the board is about $800,000 short of accomplishing that goal. The commission has proposed funding the Board of Education at Maintenance of Effort, which is $55,495,261. The amount is $1.3 million more than the previous budget.
“The success of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools has been built on a foundation of excellent teaching, safe and nurturing learning environment, strong parent participation, outstanding community and business partnerships and adequate resources,” Pilewski said.
Bill Faust, chairperson of the Fire and EMS Commission, thanked the commissioners for potentially reducing the qualifying age eligible for the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP). The commission recommended lowering it from age 65 to 55.
The LOSAP program allows volunteer fire company members the ability after a certain age to receive a monthly stipend, Todd said.
The third budget hearing was held after press deadline Wednesday, April 26, at Sudlersville Middle School, 600 Charles St., Sudlersville.
To view the budget in its entirety, visit the county’s website at www.qac.org.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
The commission meeting room in the Liberty Building in Centreville was filled as community members came out to participate in the second of three public hearings regarding the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The hearing was held on Tuesday, April 25.